Ghosts and Hells – An exhibition on the Underworld in Asian art at the Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac

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On 10 April 2018 a new exhibition that focuses on perceptions and artistic expressions of the underworld in Asian art will open at the Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac in Paris. Various art forms including literature, film, visual arts, performing arts, design, manuscript art have been chosen to showcase ideas of the underworld – hells, ghosts, spirits, horror and fantastic creatures – in the context of Asian cultures and imaginations.

The curator, Julien Rousseau, Head of the Asia Heritage Collections at the Musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, sought advice from various museum and library curators across Europe while curating this very promising exhibition.

The museum’s announcement of the exhibition includes the following interesting outlook: “Ghosts and Hells – the underworld in Asian art explores their omnipresence not only in objects and documents but also in the performing arts, cinema and comics in an attempt to better understand how they work. After all, whilst Buddhism has played its part in the formation of this imagination – implying that souls are in waiting between two reincarnations –, it is indeed on the fringes of religion, in popular and secular art, that the representation of ghosts has truly come into its own.

A number of events have been organised around the exhibition, too. Apart from guided and narrated tours, there will be film screenings, talks with Julien Rousseau and guest speakers, a weekend-long festival “Enfers et fantômes d’Asie” and much more.

The exhibition will close on 18 July 2018. More detailed information and the programme of events can be found on the museum’s exhibition website.


Exhibition poster


Online Exhibition on Sayyid `Uthman of Batavia

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From 1 December 2014 until 23 January 2015, the ‘Oude UB’ or Old University Library at Rapenburg 70, Leiden, highlighted aspects of the life and work of Sayyid `Uthman in the exhibition Sayyid `Uthman of Batavia (1822-1914): A Life in the Service of Islam and the Colonial Administration. This exhibition is now available online.

Sayyid ‘Uthman was the most prominent Islam scholar of his era in the Netherlands East Indies, providing guidance to the Muslim community. In 1889 the famous Dutch Islam scholar Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje engaged his services as an advisor and informant to the Colonial Government.

The exhibition was organised on the occasion of the publication of a monograph on Sayyid `Uthman by Dr Nico Kaptein (LIAS) in 2014. It was a joint effort of the Art Commission Oude UB, Leiden University Libraries and the Leiden University Centre for the Study of Islam and Society (LUCIS). The exhibition displayed a selection of objects from the special collections of the Leiden University Libraries, including the recently incorporated collection ot the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV), and showed how well the UBL and KITLV collections complement and reinforce each other.

The objects have long since been returned to the stacks and vaults of the University Library, but the Sayyid ‘Uthman exhibition is now permanently available in English online for the benefit of the academic community in the Netherlands, Indonesia and beyond. To view the exhibition, please visit the Leiden University website and click on the image thumbnail.

(reported by Dr. Nico J.G. Kaptein)

Genealogical tree of the descendants of the Prophet Muhammad (Courtesy of Old University Library, Leiden)

Genealogical tree of the descendants of the Prophet Muhammad (Courtesy of Old University Library, Leiden)

Shan Manuscripts in the UK

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An interesting article with the title “An Introduction to the World of Shan Manuscripts” by our member Jotika Khur-Yearn has appeared on the blog of the SOAS Subject Librarians. It gives a short overview of the Shan manuscript tradition and collections of Shan manuscripts in the UK. Jotika is currently working on an exhibition of Shan manuscripts which will be on display at the Wolfson Gallery of the SOAS Library in London in November and December 2014. More details about the upcoming exhibition will follow on this blog nearer the time.

Detail of a cover of a Shan folding book (pap tup) held at the British Library (Or.12040)

Detail of a cover of a Shan folding book (pap tup) held at the British Library (Or.12040)

Angkor : The birth of a myth – Louis Delaporte and Cambodia

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Musée Guimet, Paris
16 October 2013 to 13 January 2014

With this exhibition, the Musée Guimet looks back at the origins of the myth of Angkor – a myth created by French explorers in the 19th and early 20th century. The exhibition will show how the Khmer heritage was rediscovered and how the monuments of Angkor were presented to the public at the time of spectacular universal and colonial exhibitions.

A selection of about 250 pieces from a rich collection corpus will be presented in the exhibition, including Khmer stone carvings from the 10th to 13th centuries, plaster casts, photographs, paintings and graphic documents of the 19th and early 20th century.  Light will be shed on the nature of the first contacts between French explorers and the art of ancient Cambodia, centered around the iconic personality of Louis Delaporte (1842-1925), the great French explorer whose ambition was “to bring Khmer art into museums”.

Included in the exhibition are pieces that were originally displayed in the galleries of the Trocadero Museum Indochina from 1878 to 1925, which are now regarded as the only remaining originals after having undergone extensive restoration works.

For more information and related publications and conferences please visit the homepage of the exhibition.

Exhibition catalogue edited by Pierre Baptiste and Thierry Zéphir

Exhibition catalogue edited by Pierre Baptiste and Thierry Zéphir

Exhibition: Silver from the Malay World

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15 July 2013 – 16 March 2014 V&A Museum London, UK

A special display at the V&A Museum in London explores the rich traditions of silver in the Malay world. Intricate ornament drawn from geometry and nature decorates dining vessels, clothing accessories and ceremonial regalia.

Silver from the Malay World features rarely seen collections acquired by three prominent British colonial administrators, who were stationed in British Malaya at the turn of the 20th century. The display also shows unique Malay metalwork: electrotype copies of the Perak royal regalia commissioned by the Museum in 1887.
More information at: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/s/silver-from-the-malay-world/

World Eco Fibre & Textile (WEFT) Art Exhibition

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Date: 18 January 2013 Time: 10:30 AM

Finishes: 23 March 2013 Time: 5:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery, School of Oriental and African Studies, London, UK

WEFT explores the three dimensionality of textile art through installations and sculptural constructions, where contemporary textile artists are currently taking fibre sculpture into new areas. This extraordinary exhibition gives an insight into these current trends, showing how textile art can be considered as another genre of fine art. Exhibits include the work of contributing artists from over 35 countries the world over.

This rich exhibition highlights the manner in which traditional resist techniques such as ikat, tritik, shibori, yuzen and batik, together with the art of embellishment such as embroidery and quilting, are applied to contemporary textile art. The emphasis is on hand-woven and hand-made textiles, as opposed to the machine-made. Hand-made textiles display the skills of the designer and the producer and reflect a long history of artistic and cultural tradition.

The textiles themselves illustrate and display the use of natural yarns and dyes as a means of artistic expression. Natural fibres such as cotton, silk, ramie, abaca, pina, hemp and bark are employed. Colours which derive from natural dye materials such as plant roots, leaves, flowers, fruits, insects and molluscs are also part of this process. The use of natural mordents in the interaction of fixing colour to the cloth is also emphasised in this vibrant exhibition.

During this exhibition there will be demonstrations of textile production from different countries, starting with Malaysia in January, India in February and China in March.

WEFT is curated by Edric Ong and presented in association with Society Atelier Sarawak, Malaysia.

The WEFT exhibition is launched with a symposium titled “Endangered Textile Traditions” to be held at SOAS on the 18th and 19th of January 2013. 

This symposium brings together the current work and research of international textile artists and scholars.

More detailed information and a programme of the symposium can be found at http://www.soas.ac.uk/gallery/weft/ .

Sacred Ink – The Tattoo Master

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Thailand’s spiritual “Yantra” tattoo tradition

Forthcoming exhibition with photographs by Cedric Arnold

Brunei Gallery, SOAS, London 18 October to 15 December 2012

In Thailand, a country with a culture deeply rooted in superstition, tattoos are a lot more than just skin deep.

For centuries, Thai men have covered their bodies with protective tattoos. Old temple murals show epic scenes of swords breaking apart when hitting a tattooed soldier’s skin. The tradition has been handed down generations of both monks and laymen who create the tattoos and empower them with special prayers. Since yantras can be drawn on cloth, paper, wood or sheets of metal, most Thais opt for this option to protect themselves from harm and improve their luck. The yantras are placed in cars and homes, or even worn as amulets. In Thai society, tattoos are still very much associated with prisoners and gangsters. Young men wishing to join the police or army are refused if they have tattoos; once accepted though, they can get tattoos done.

Thai tattoos are engrained in everyday Thai life and spirituality; they are thought of as a physical connection with powerful spirits.  Although they are often frowned upon and identified with the lower-echelons of society and the criminal underworld, a renewed interest in the practice is attracting men and women alike with “not so shady” occupations. Yantra tattoos are going more mainstream, along the lines of western tattooing. But the spiritual aspect of the practice in a modern, yet superstitious society like Thailand will no doubt keep it from becoming a mere fashion statement; at least for now.

The photographs in this exhibition show many aspects the tattooing process as well as ceremonies, the master’s environment, the master at work.

French / British photographer Cedric Arnold is often drawn towards exploring the markings of time, this can be in the subject matter itself or expressed with the medium he uses: out of date film, old instant film, or even through chemically altering prints and emulsion. Cedric lives and works in Bangkok, Thailand.

Further information:  www.soas.ac.uk/gallery/sacredink/

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